I read this phrase on the front of one of the clothing stores in the Mall of America during the last Christmas Season. I copied it down and put in my wallet and then forgot about it, till I discovered it last week as I was going through some stuff I wanted to get rid of. I took note of the phrase because it seems to be so contradictory to the way of Jesus. The love of God in Jesus does not kill love, but rather place love in our hearts. We read in Romans 5:5, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Image your heart, not so much your head, as a container that can receive love. Paul prayed that we might be “rooted and established in love” and that we might have power, “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” and that we might “know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:18-19). The result is that we “may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).
If the love of God has already been poured into our hearts, our prayer should be that we become rooted and established in this love. For me this means that I become more assured that this is the truest reality in my life as a follower of Jesus. As I focus on God love for me, just as I am, not as I should be or even hope to be, I become more rooted and established in his love. Then I will have power to grasp more fully how great the love of God is for me. To know that I am loved in such a profound way has truly surpassed any knowledge I might have of myself and that of God. But as I come to rest in that love, I find that I am experiencing a greater awareness of God in my life. It has nothing to do with what I accomplish, but rather has everything to do with how I perceive myself as being loved by God.
So love does not kill slowly, but rather allows me to know who I am so that I might become fully alive. David Benner reminds us that prayer as our life with God can be thought of as “being in love.” This implies that in prayer we are able to know “our being-in-love.” Listen to what Benner has to say about this being in love. “Prayer is not simply what we do. It is a way of being…it is resting in the reality of our being-in-God. This is our fundamental identity. It is the hidden but deepest truth of our existence. Our being has no meaning apart from its relationship to God’s being. The only possibility of being who I most deeply am rests in the eternal I Am. Because of the I Am, I can be. Because the eternal I Am is love, I can experience communion with God in love. This is what makes it possible for me to become truly and fully human, for me to become truly and fully who I am in Christ.”
The only possible way that love might kill slowly in my walk with Jesus is the death that occurs to my old nature. As I experience more of the reality of God’s love in our hearts, the more we will be willing to let go of the patterns and practices of our old nature. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). I guess I would say as I come to know God’s love for me, there is a sense in which this love kills slowly in that I am less dominated by my old nature. It is not by my will power that this death takes place, but rather it is God’s work in me as I surrender to love.